How recent Masters have been won

10:22 AM, Apr 8, 2012   |    comments
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Augusta, GA (Sports Network) - Unlike last year's Masters, this year's championship is set up perfectly for an old school Sunday battle.

Sweden's Peter Hanson stands alone atop the leaderboard by a single stroke over three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson. But don't think this will be a battle between the 25th and 14th ranked players in the world.

Yes, Hanson has climbed to 25th in the world after three top-five finishes this year, including two at World Golf Championship events. And I know its hard to believe, but Mickelson has slid to 14th in the world despite a win and three top-fives of his own in 2012.

That just goes to show where Phil's game has been over the last year or so.

Hanson and Mickelson are 1-2 on the leaderboard, but there are three more players within four of the lead and four more players that are five back.

You might think that is inconsequential, but seven times in the last nine weeks on the PGA Tour someone has rallied from multiple shots back in the final round to win.

One of those come-from-behind victors was Mickelson. The left-hander trailed by six shots entering the last day at Pebble Beach, but closed with a magical eight-under 64 to win by two. He had the low round of the day by three shots.

On the other hand, former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen led entering the final round last week in Houston. He stumbled to a three-over 75 and lost by two to Hunter Mahan.

Fast forward a week, Oosthuizen is alone in third place, two behind Hanson, and Mahan shares fifth place, five strokes off the pace.

Bubba Watson is one of those that lost a 54-hole lead in the last nine weeks. He fell to Justin Rose at the WGC - Cadillac Championship after leading entering the final round.

Watson, who missed a nine-footer for birdie to force a playoff at Doral, is three shots off the pace at Augusta. He has 13 birdies through three rounds, which ties him for seventh most.

I guess it wouldn't surprise you that Hanson, Oosthuizen and Mickelson are 1-2-3 on that list.

With some of the biggest names -- like Woods, McIlroy and Donald -- nowhere near the lead, never fear as there will be plenty of roars on the back nine.

As the old saying goes, the Masters doesn't really get underway until the back nine on Sunday.

With that in mind, here's how some recent Masters have been won:

SCHWARTZEL'S AMAZING CLOSE (2011)

Never was the aforementioned notion about the Masters not starting until the back nine on Sunday more apropos than it was in 2011.

For Tiger Woods, a four-time Masters winner, the back nine would be where his rally would come to a screeching halt, and for 54-hole leader Rory McIlroy, the back nine on Sunday would be the site of his massive collapse.

However, both were over-shadowed by a South African that wasn't supposed to be able to do what he did.

In Sunday's final round, Charl Schwartzel was one of just eight players that held at least a piece of the lead.

Schwartzel had won six times on the European Tour, and five other times on the Sunshine Tour in his homeland of South Africa. But, in his 17th start in a major championship, he did what no player had done in Masters history.

Trailing Adam Scott by a stroke on the par-five 15th, Schwartzel got up and down for birdie from over the green to match Scott atop the leaderboard. After Scott stuffed his tee shot to two feet at 16 to set up birdie, Schwartzel drained a 15-footer for birdie to match the Australian at minus-12.

Scott stumbled to a bogey on No. 17 and that opened the door for Schwartzel. He didn't just take advantage, he crushed everyone else's hopes. Schwartzel followed his previous two birdies with two more at 17 and 18.

In doing so, Schwartzel became the first Masters champion to birdie the final four holes and claim the green jacket.

Afterwards, he had a perfect summation for the final round, "It was a phenomenal day."

PHIL'S EMOTIONAL VICTORY (2010)

Phil Mickelson hadn't won a major since 2006, and his personal life had taken a turn for the worse with both his wife and mother dealing with cancer. He was somewhat of a public favorite because of his dedication to his family, and he came from behind to defeat Lee Westwood by three strokes for his third green jacket and fourth major championship overall.

He trailed Westwood by five on Saturday when he made what is now a famed approach at the 13th around the trees, eventually making birdie at the hole to begin his climb up the leaderboard.

Mickelson still trailed by one entering Sunday's final round, but caught up with a birdie at the eighth. After Westwood bogeyed the ninth, Mickelson had a one-shot lead, one he didn't relinquish.

Anthony Kim and Fred Couples made late charges on Sunday, but both fell off by the end of the day. Mickelson birdied the 12th and 13th to increase his lead to two over Westwood.

A birdie by Mickelson at the 15th created a three-shot gap with three holes to play, and he finished with a final-round 67 to win the event going away.

A tearful Mickelson embraced his wife following the win, his third in seven years at Augusta National.

FLAWED FINISH KILLS KENNY (2009)

Kenny Perry was two holes from making history at the Masters. Sticking his tee ball to tap-in range at the par-three 16th -- the shot of a lifetime -- Perry grabbed a two-shot lead with only two holes remaining.

At the age of 48 years, eight months and two days old, Perry was not only looking to pass Jack Nicklaus as the oldest Masters champion, but also looking to supplant Julius Boros as the oldest winner at any major.

But he made his first bogey in 22 holes at the 17th, then another at the 18th to surrender his lead and force a three-way playoff with Angel Cabrera and Chad Campbell.

Perry, the picture of career resurgence heading into Augusta, was eventually defeated by Cabrera, who needed only a par on the second playoff hole to win (Campbell was knocked out on the first extra hole).

It marked Cabrera's second major championship after the 2007 U.S. Open -- a pair of victories notable for being the Argentine's only titles on the PGA Tour.

Cabrera may have won the tournament, but Perry's flawed finish is the image that remains.

"You have to hand it to him," Perry said afterward. "He was fighting just as hard as I was out there."

IMPECCABLE IMMELMAN (2008)

In 2008, Trevor Immelman became only the fifth player to win the Masters in wire-to-wire fashion, and the first since Seve Ballesteros in 1980. He became the second South African to don the green jacket after his idol, Gary Player, who called him Saturday night to offer encouragement.

Immelman did it by building a lead he could not lose on the back nine -- not even to the four-time champion Woods. Immelman carried a five-shot lead to the 14th hole and finished with a three-over 75 that was good enough to beat Woods by three strokes.

"I'm so proud of myself," Immelman said. "I actually still can't believe that I got that done."

ZACH'S WEDGE ATTACK (2007)

The previous 16 Masters champions had all come from the final pairing when Zach Johnson bucked that trend in 2007 while playing in the third-to last group on Sunday.

Johnson's game plan was out of step with the conventional wisdom that bombers who can reach Augusta's par-fives in two shots have a better chance to win.

He never went for the green, opting instead to lay up to ideal distances for his wedge. Shooting a three-under 69 in the final round, he won by two shots over Woods, Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini.

"I'm a Midwest guy from Iowa and this is what it's about," Johnson said.

PHIL'S SUNDAY STROLL (2006)

Mickelson needed an 18-foot birdie putt to win his first Masters title in 2004. Two years later, he had more time to relish slipping into the green jacket for the second time in three seasons.

Lefty walked up the 18th fairway with a three-shot lead in '06 and won by two strokes over Tim Clark after posting a three-under 69 in the final round -- his first score in the 60s all week.

It was Mickelson's second consecutive major title after the 2005 PGA Championship -- sparking conversation that he could match Woods' "Tiger Slam." His collapse at the U.S. Open two months later brought an end to that speculation.

"The stress-free walk up 18 was incredible," Mickelson said after the '06 Masters. "I actually wanted a four- or five-shot lead, but three was OK, too. It was a great feeling walking up there, knowing I had the tournament in hand."

"IN YOUR LIFE ...!" (2005)

Woods produced the all-time Masters highlight in 2005 with his remarkable chip-in birdie at the par-three 16th on Sunday. Pulling his tee shot left of the green, he needed to play nearly 30 feet of left-to-right break to get the ball close to the hole.

After picking a spot on the green where sunshine was hitting the surface through the nearby trees, Woods chipped up and waited. The ball skipped, rolled down towards the hole, then slowed to a stop at the edge of the cup.

When it fell in, Verne Lundquist gave us his chilling "In your LIFE have you seen anything like that?" call.

The shot was also a pretty good unintentional ad for Nike, whose logo could be seen as the ball teetered on the lip.

Woods eventually beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff for his fourth Masters crown, but it was the shot at 16 that we still remember.

"I figured I need to get this thing at least up-and-down, give myself a chance to make a par," Woods said. "All of a sudden, it looked pretty good, and all of a sudden, it looked really good. And it looked like how could it not go in, and how did it not go in, and all of a sudden it went in."

MICKELSON'S ONE SMALL LEAP, ONE GIANT STEP (2004)

Mickelson was the "Best Player Never to Win a Major" before he broke through at the 2004 Masters.

Rolling in a downhill, 18-footer on the 18th green to beat Ernie Els by a shot, Lefty became just the fourth player in Masters history to birdie the 72nd hole to win the championship.

Mickelson's celebration? A small, borderline awkward, legs-apart leap into the air that has since become his trademarked logo.

The victory snapped an 0-for-46 drought at the four major championships for Mickelson, who had finished third in the previous three Masters. He had also been runner-up twice at the U.S. Open and once at the PGA Championship.

"In the past 10 years, to have come so close and fallen short or having people make critical putts against me, makes this difficult journey towards my first major title so much sweeter," said Mickelson, who now owns four major championships.

OH, CANADA (2003)

Mike Weir three-putted for a bogey at the first playoff hole, but still beat Len Mattiace to win the 2003 Masters. It was that rarest of Augusta moments, repeated by Johnson four years later, then Immelman in 2008: A surprise champion.

Mattiace fired a brilliant 65 in the final round to force the playoff with Weir, who closed with a 68. Their playoff was the first at the Masters in 13 years.

Weir became the first Canadian to wear the green jacket, and the first left- hander in 40 years.

"It was a tough grind all week, mentally and physically," said Weir. "I was absolutely beat."

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